What is Safe Families?

Safe Families is a Mother’s Choice frontline service, designed to connect new young mothers with friends in the community. Safe Families was launched in Hong Kong in 2021.


Why Safe Families?

At Mother’s Choice, through our Pregnant Girls Services, our mission is to embrace, equip, and empower girls facing a teen crisis pregnancy for a hopeful future.  Yet many who are choosing to parent their babies are leaving our Mother’s Choice Services without the extended family or community support needed to raise their child. If they are alone and face another crisis, they may be forced to separate from their child, placing them into the care system.

With the launch of Safe Families, we believe that there is a network of volunteers from across our community who can walk alongside these mothers on their parenting journey.


How does Safe Families work?

Mother’s Choice believe it takes a village to raise a child, and that all families need friends and community support. However, some families do not have a support system, and this is where Safe Families can help.

Safe Families will introduce 1-3 trained and approved caring volunteers to wrap around a young mother so she can thrive in her parenting journey. Volunteers provide social support, practical help, and concrete resources, partnering together to focus on 3-4 of the mother’s short term goals, so that the support is specific and relevant to help the family.

Once relationships and trust are built, the family and their Circle of Support can move forwards with their Natural Support Network, without Safe Families.


Where did the idea of Safe Families come from?

Mother’s Choice identified the Safe Families for Children (SFFC) model when looking for ways to support our increasing number of Pregnant Girls Services (PGS) clients who choose parenting. Founded in 2003 and operating in the US, UK, and Canada, Safe Families connects vulnerable families with community volunteers.

The vision of Safe Families is to create a world where children are safe, and families transformed through radically compassionate communities by creating extended family-like support for struggling families through a community of devoted volunteers. Safe Families has been evaluated over 20 years to ensure families are being supported and strengthened.

Mother’s Choice believes the Safe Families model, when contextualised to a Hong Kong environment, will be a change agent for vulnerable families in Hong Kong. Mother’s Choice has been licensed by SFFC to run Safe Families in Hong Kong since 2021.


Who are the mothers and families supported by Safe Families?

Safe Families receives referrals from Mother’s Choice Children’s Services and Pregnant Girls Services, whose mission is to embrace, equip, and empower girls facing a teen crisis pregnancy for a hopeful future. The families we serve are mothers who are under 25 years old with small children, who are parenting their child but who are also socially isolated and lack a support network around them.

Safe Families is not currently open to external referrals of families. If you need to refer a young girl facing a crisis pregnancy to our Pregnant Girls Services, please contact us via our “Get Help” page or call our hotline on 2313 5678.


Who are the Safe Families Volunteers?

Volunteers are people from across our community. They may be an individual, a couple, or a family, of different generations, backgrounds and experiences. A volunteer sees the courage, resilience, and unlimited potential of young mothers, and is committed to building a relationship with mother and baby and providing practical support.


What are the Volunteer Roles?

The strength of Safe Families is that each mother can be matched with a number of different volunteers. A “Family Friend” befriends, listens, and provides practical and emotional support. A “Childcare Friend” may babysit sometimes so mothers can have a break, study, and work. A “Coaching Friend” co-ordinates the volunteers to help the mother achieve her goals. A volunteer does not provide services such as counseling, medical, or social work support.


What do Volunteers need to do to become a Safe Families Volunteer?

To become a Safe Families Volunteer, volunteers first attend an Information Session, then fill in an application form, attend Safe Families training (which covers topics including connecting and befriending, how to support someone who has experienced trauma, goal setting, empowerment, and child protection.

Next, volunteers will complete Child Protection training, sign our Code of Conduct and make a declaration to show their suitability for working with vulnerable children and families, and meet with a caseworker to talk about their motivation and expectations for being a Safe Families volunteer.

We ask volunteers to complete these steps as Mother’s Choice has a responsibility to ensure that we do all we can to protect and support the children, youth, and families we serve.


How long is the volunteer commitment?

We ask that all volunteers can commit to a weekly engagement with a mother (includes phone contact) for a period of 9 months. However, the goal of Safe Families is to build a long-term relationship, and volunteers should be open to this. In the words of another volunteer:

I realized that this was not a commitment, it is a potential relationship, and I have an open heart to that”.


What is the role of Mother’s Choice in Safe Families?

All families served by Safe Families are referred from Pregnant Girls Services team and screened by the Safe Families team. Mother’s Choice ensures that the family meets the criteria for service and understands her goals and family situation. Mother’s Choice also trains and approves volunteers, ensuring that volunteers have met safety requirements and completed child protection training. The Mother’s Choice social worker will match the family with volunteers, and coordinate their first meeting, subsequent update meetings, and final meeting.

In case of a child protection concern, Mother’s Choice will oversee all responses to incidents according to our Child Protection Policy framework.


I belong to a church or community group, how can my community support Safe Families?

Mother’s Choice partners with church and community groups in order to share, inspire, and encourage potential volunteers to learn more about Safe Families. A church may organize and host an Information Session and trainings, and once there are some volunteers, may organize support groups or connect volunteers together. Churches may also welcome families to attend events, playgroups, and be involved in other social support systems.

If you would like to get your church or community involved, please email safefamilies@motherschoice.org.


What is the difference between Safe Families, foster care, and adoption?

Safe Families connects isolated families to volunteers in the community who build a relationship and provide practical support as extended family, meeting once or twice a week. Parents remain the legal guardians of their child at all time, and involvement in Safe Families is completely voluntary for parents.

Foster care is for children in need of safe temporary care, whose biological family members cannot adequately take care of them due to family crisis. These children remain in foster care until they can return home or join an adoptive family. Adoption happens when a child joins a permanent family, and the adoptive parents become their legal parents.


I am already a Mother’s Choice Child Care Home volunteer/ Foster Family. Can I also sign up to be a Safe Families volunteer?

If you are a volunteer in another area of Mother’s Choice, we invite you to attend an Info Session to learn more about Safe Families to see if being a Safe Families volunteer is the right fit for you and if you have the capacity to serve alongside your other commitments. This can be discussed as part of the application process.


Do I need to speak Cantonese to apply to be a Safe Families volunteers?

Safe Families volunteers do not need to speak Cantonese, we will match any approved non-Cantonese speaking volunteers in a Circle of Support with other volunteers who can connect with the mother in Cantonese, as well as help with translation.


How may a Safe Families Volunteer support a new mother?

  • Building a strong relationship, listening and providing advice where needed.
  • Connecting to other resources including playgroups, mothers groups or churches.
  • Celebrate birthdays and holidays together.
  • Playing with children and providing occasional babysitting.
  • Understanding practical household needs, helping to access tangible items (baby/ food items).
  • Providing financial and budgeting guidance, supporting CV building and job applications.
  • Support when attending medical and social work appointments, and vaccinations.
  • Support children to build strong relationships with trusted adults.


I have more questions! How can I find out more about Safe Families?

We invite you to join a Safe Families Information Session by signing up on our website: motherschoice.org/safefamilies

If you have more questions, please contact safefamilies@motherschoice.org.